The United States presidential elections determine who becomes the President of the United States.

How elections are administered

The election of the United States President is governed by Section 1 of Article Two of the United States Constitution, as amended by Amendment XII.

The President and Vice President are elected on the same ticket by the U.S. Electoral College, whose members are elected directly from each state; the President and Vice President serve four-year terms.

Elections take place every four years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The last election was held on November 7, 2000. See U.S. presidential election, 2000.

The next election will take place on November 2, 2004.


Election year President Major Opponent(s)*
1789 electionGeorge Washington(not opposed)
1792 electionGeorge Washington(not opposed)
1796 electionJohn Adams (Federalist)Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)
1800 electionThomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)John Adams (Federalist)
1804 electionThomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)Charles C. Pinckney (Federalist)
1808 electionJames Madison (Democratic-Republican)Charles C. Pinckney (Federalist)
1812 electionJames Madison (Democratic-Republican)DeWitt Clinton (Federalist/Peace)
1816 electionJames Monroe (Democratic-Republican)Rufus King (Federalist)
1820 electionJames Monroe (Democratic-Republican)(not opposed)
1824 electionJohn Quincy Adams‡ (Democratic-Republican)Andrew Jackson‡ (Democratic-Republican)
William H. Crawford (Democratic-Republican)
Henry Clay (Democratic-Republican)
1828 electionAndrew Jackson (Democrat)John Quincy Adams (National Republican)
1832 electionAndrew Jackson (Democrat)Henry Clay (National Republican)
William Wirt (Anti-Masonic)
John Floyd (Nullifiers)
1836 electionMartin Van Buren (Democrat)William Henry Harrison (Whig)
Hugh L. White (Whig)
Daniel Webster (Whig)
Willie P. Mangum (A Whig, but votes received from Nullifiers)
1840 electionWilliam Henry Harrison (Whig)Martin Van Buren (Democrat)
James G. Birney (Liberty Party)
1844 electionJames K. Polk† (Democrat)Henry Clay (Whig)
James G. Birney (Liberty Party)
1848 electionZachary Taylor (Whig)Lewis Cass (Democrat)
Martin Van Buren (Free Soil Party)
1852 electionFranklin Pierce (Democratic)Winfield Scott (Whig)
John P. Hale (Free Soil Party)
1856 electionJames Buchanan† (Democratic)John C. Fremont (Republican)
Millard Fillmore (American Party/Whig)
1860 electionAbraham Lincoln† (Republican)Stephen A. Douglas (Democrat (northern))
John C. Breckinridge (Democrat (southern))
John Bell (Constitutional Union (Whig))
1864 electionAbraham Lincoln (Republican)George McClellan (Democrat)
1868 electionUlysses S. Grant (Republican)Horatio Seymour (Democrat)
1872 electionUlysses S. Grant (Republican)Horace Greeley (Democrat/Liberal Republican)
Thomas A. Hendricks (Independent Democrat)
1876 electionRutherford B. Hayes‡ (Republican)Samuel J. Tilden‡ (Democrat)
1880 electionJames Garfield† (Republican)Winfield S. Hancock (Democrat)
James B. Weaver (Greenback-Labor Party)
1884 electionGrover Cleveland† (Democrat)James G. Blaine (Republican)
1888 electionBenjamin Harrison‡ (Republican)Grover Cleveland‡ (Democrat)
Clinton B. Fisk (Prohibition)
1892 electionGrover Cleveland† (Democrat)Benjamin Harrison (Republican)
James B. Weaver (Populist Party)
James Bidwell (Prohibition)
1896 electionWilliam McKinley (Republican)William Jennings Bryan (Democrat/Populist Party)
1900 electionWilliam McKinley (Republican)William Jennings Bryan (Democrat)
John G. Woolley (Prohibition)
Eugene V. Debs (Socialist)
1904 electionTheodore Roosevelt (Republican)Alton B. Parker (Democrat)
Eugene V. Debs (Socialist)
Silas C. Swallow (Prohibition)
1908 electionWilliam Howard Taft (Republican)William Jennings Bryan (Democrat)
Eugene V. Debs (Socialist)
Eugene W. Chafin (Prohibition)
1912 electionWoodrow Wilson† (Democrat)Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive)
William Howard Taft (Republican)
Eugene V. Debs (Socialist)
Eugene W. Chafin (Prohibition)
1916 electionWoodrow Wilson† (Democrat)Charles Evans Hughes (Republican)
Allan L. Benson (Socialist)
Frank Hanly (Prohibition)
1920 electionWarren G. Harding (Republican)James M. Cox (Democrat)
Eugene V. Debs (Socialist)
1924 electionCalvin Coolidge (Republican)John W. Davis (Democrat)
Robert M. La Follette, Sr (Progressive/Socialist)
1928 electionHerbert Hoover (Republican)Alfred E. Smith (Democrat)
1932 electionFranklin Delano Roosevelt (Democrat)Herbert Hoover (Republican)
Norman Thomas (Socialist)
1936 electionFranklin Delano Roosevelt (Democrat)Alfred M. Landon (Republican)
William Frederick Lemke (Union)
1940 electionFranklin Delano Roosevelt (Democrat)Wendell Willkie (Republican)
1944 electionFranklin Delano Roosevelt (Democrat)Thomas Dewey (Republican)
1948 electionHarry S. Truman† (Democrat)Thomas Dewey (Republican)
J. Strom Thurmond (States' Rights Democratic)
Henry Wallace (Progressive)
1952 electionDwight Eisenhower (Republican)Adlai Stevenson (Democrat)
1956 electionDwight Eisenhower (Republican)Adlai Stevenson (Democrat)
1960 electionJohn F. Kennedy† (Democrat)Richard Nixon (Republican)
1964 electionLyndon Johnson (Democrat)Barry Goldwater (Republican)
1968 electionRichard Nixon† (Republican)Hubert H. Humphrey (Democrat)
George Wallace (American Independent)
1972 electionRichard Nixon (Republican)George McGovern (Democrat)
1976 electionJimmy Carter (Democrat)Gerald Ford (Republican)
1980 electionRonald Reagan (Republican)Jimmy Carter (Democrat)
John Anderson (Independent)
1984 electionRonald Reagan (Republican)Walter Mondale (Democrat)
1988 electionGeorge H. W. Bush (Republican)Michael Dukakis (Democrat)
1992 electionBill Clinton† (Democrat)George H. W. Bush (Republican)
Ross Perot (Independent)
1996 electionBill Clinton† (Democrat)Bob Dole (Republican)
Ross Perot (Reform)
2000 electionGeorge W. Bush‡ (Republican)Al Gore‡ (Democrat)
Ralph Nader (Green)
2004 electionNext election: November 2, 2004

* "Major Opponent" is defined as a candidate receiving greater than 1% of the total popular vote for elections including and after 1824, or greater than 5 electoral votes for elections including and before 1820. (This column may not be complete).

† Denotes a minority President—one receiving less than 50% of all popular votes. This is typically an indication of a particularly strong third-party candidate or a close election.

‡ Denotes a (minority) President who did not receive a plurality of the popular votes and the opposing candidate who did. This is typically an indication of an extremely close election.

Voter turnout

Voter turnout in Presidential elections has been on the decline in recent years, although it bounced back slightly during the 2000 election from 1996's lows. While turnout has been decreasing, registration has been increasing. Registration rates varied from 65% to 70% of the voting age population from the 1960s to the 1980s, and due in part to greater government outreach programs, registration swelled to 75% in 1996 and 2000. Despite greater registration, however, turnout has not greatly improved.

Year Voting Age Population ¹ Turnout % Turnout of VAP
2000 205,815,000 105,586,274 51.30%
1996 196,511,000 96,456,345 49.08%
1992 189,529,000 104,405,155 55.09%
1988 182,778,000 91,594,693 50.11%
1984 174,466,000 92,652,680 53.11%
1980 164,597,000 86,515,221 52.56%
1976 152,309,190 81,555,789 53.55%
1972 140,776,000 77,718,554 55.21%
1968 120,328,186 73,211,875 60.84%
1964 114,090,000 70,644,592 61.92%
1960 109,159,000 68,838,204 63.06%

Source: Federal Election Commission

¹ It should be noted that the voting age population includes all persons over the age of 18 as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, which necessarily includes a significant number of persons ineligible to vote, such as non-citizens or felons. The actual number of eligible voters is somewhat lower. The number of non-citizens in 1994 was approximately 13 million, and in 1996, felons numbered around 1.3 million, so it can be estimated that around 7-10% of the voting age population is ineligible to vote.

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